Tue | Feb 18, 2020

Kinship foster care saves child

Published:Thursday | February 14, 2019 | 12:16 AM

Most children with backgrounds similar to Jerome Gilden’s* are not afforded the opportunity to live, much less to grow, lead and inspire others towards greatness.

Gilden was the product of a teenage pregnancy – his mother only 12 years old and a primary school student at the time. His dad, only a few years older, was barely getting used to high school when the news of his conception rocked their worlds.

Both of Gilden’s parents grew up in poverty in rural Clarendon, with their parents having to struggle tirelessly to find food each night. So news of his mother’s pregnancy not only disappointed them, but brought additional financial woes that seemed insurmountable at the time.

Nonetheless, despite tough physical and psychological changes in the young girl’s body, with help, she managed to make it through her nine months of pregnancy, and gave birth in 2001 to a bouncing baby boy full of promise. However, that’s when things started to get harder.

Taking care of the child seemed more than the two teenage parents and their parents could manage. There were many things they had to learn about parenting in a very short time, even as the newborn demanded more and more of their time, resources and attention.

That is when the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) got wind of the situation and intervened. Following a visit to their home, Gilden and his mother were deemed to be in need of care and protection and were subsequently placed on a Fit Person Order. They were both placed in the care of Gilden’s great-grandmother, who welcomed the young parent and her newborn child with open arms and gave them a home.

Things were not always the best but both the young mother and child benefited greatly from the nurturing and knowledge imparted by the old lady. They soon blossomed, forming healthy bonds between mother and child, and between guardian and the two. Kinship foster care was finalised on November 11, 2011, and since then Gilden has remained with his great-grandmother.

Despite his challenging upbringing, however, Gilden has bloomed into an admirable teenager. He is the head boy at a prominent high school in the parish where he passed seven Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects, and has been guiding and lobbying for students’ rights, especially for his disadvantaged peers at school.

Despite his rocky start, Gilden, a sixth-form student, hopes to pursue a career in engineering and is very focused on attaining his goals. He is described as a model child with no behavioural challenges, and is considered well-mannered and articulate – a commendable trait for an adolescent male cared for by an elderly foster parent, CPFSA workers noted.

“I feel very proud of him because this is a young man. To see how respectful he is, how well-mannered he is and the strides that he has made academically to be promoted as head boy at his school… That is very commendable of him. That is not very common in many societies,” said Taneka Cassanova-Durrant, children’s officer in Clarendon.

“His case is one of the easier cases to supervise because what you get are commendations and good reports as opposed to negativity. Once children are given the proper home environment, a loving, caring environment to optimise their full potential, they will do well. It doesn’t matter that they came into state care because of teenage pregnancy, rape or whatever, once they get that care they can do very well,” said Cassanova-Durrant, one of the persons integral to Gilden’s development.

* Name changed